Antlers Process

Kate Reed
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We started off the studio by exploring what fantasy is, and how we could relate fantasy to the fashion world. We looked at many different designers and different fashion works to get inspiration. We decided that we wanted our designs to be based off of natural things. We then made lists of things that inspired us, and what there function was within the natural world.

I was really inspired by antlers and horns. I thought they had beautiful form. After researching them I found that the function of antlers and horns is to attract mates and protect them. They are a complete armor and attraction pair. I was really inspired by that, and wondered if I could add another function to them. I originally thought of adding light, so their function would be armor, attraction, and light.

I came up with the concept of 3D printed antlers that would be printed from translucent material. The antler would be split into sections so the printer could print them. Each section would be hollow. Once the antlers were all pieced together, they would have lights in them almost like fireflies that would make them glow.

While I had the first concept in mind, I still had to turn it into a design and take it further. While researching antlers, I learned that they were, in fact, an extension of the skull. This very fact inspired me in my designing. I stopped thinking of them as accessories and more as a body attachment. I also wanted it to emphasize the bones we have already, and to grow seamlessly out of a person like a tree.

I started to sketch out how I wanted to make this concept happen. I originally thought of it just as a headdress, but I expanded my idea to make it more of a body piece. I was having a hard time sketching it on paper just because I simply couldn’t draw a model in proportions, so I moved to Photoshop.

In my first sketches, I found the shape of the antlers I wanted, and blocked them out in pink. I made them wrap around and rest on the hips of the model at the bottom of the antlers. I originally started with two antlers, but then explored adding more.

By the end of my first design I had two antlers attached almost like a backpack. Then I explored making it more of a garment. I didn’t want it just to be an extension of bone.

I then added chains. The chains would hook around from the back of the antlers, and drape forward to the front. Originally I had it so the chains would attach to a collar. I then decided that it would be better if there was a chest piece. It would be prettier.

Once I had the design mocked up, I had to think of the logistics of making it. I decided that the antlers would be layers of laser cut plywood circles stacked on top of each other. Each circle would have a little variation in it, so it wouldn’t be a solid unified form. Translucent 3D printed materials would also be mixed in, to add some more variation to the antlers.

I decided that the chest plate should also be laser cut plywood layered on top of each other, but with intricate designs cut out of them to complement the antlers. It would look very elegant with chains connecting the chest plate to the back, almost acting as a shirt.

Once the design was all settled, Pablo and Vedrana joined my team. We made a fashion sketch of the design, and then mocked up the design on a manikin using canvas, string and paper. We got the design to a solid stage, and were able to figure out some of the dimensions that would look proportional with our design.

We then started prototyping the antlers. We drew all sorts of circle shapes in Rhino that would turn into the layers that make up the antlers. We drew circles of all different sizes, with slight variations on each shape. Once we had enough circles designed, we laser cut them out of cardboard and started putting together our prototype. We made a wire frame for the antlers, and strung the circles that we designed on like a string of beads. We first strung the circles on randomly then realized we had to put some more thought into how we strung them, because we didn’t want it to look haphazard.

We then took off all of the circles, and organized them all by size and shape. We started to put the circles back on the wire frame, this time keeping in mind the size and the pattern. We made the antlers thicker at the bottom and thinning out at the top. Once we filled our antler frame up with circles, we decided it still wasn’t organized enough. We decided to completely redesign the circles, and have a method. We then made all the circles and patterns in Rhino again, but this time made one in every size so we could have a more gradual change from the bottom of the antlers to the top.

We also designed the chest piece. The chest piece is made out of layered laser cut plywood. We decided that we wanted it to have a deer on it, to go with the whole antler theme. The base is in the shape of a deer head, and layered to look like a forest.

We designed the chest piece on Photoshop and then moved it into Illustrator and did a live trace of the Photoshop drawing. In illustrator, we could turn the drawing into a DXF file, which is the file type that the laser cutter can read. We cut out the chest piece. It is three different layers of laser cut plywood, each intricately cut. It looks beautiful. There were a few problems with it but overall it’s lovely. One of the problems was that we accidentally cut off the deer’s head in the laser cutter. We glued it back on though. After we cut out the chest piece, we hot glued the pieces together then pinned it all onto the manikin. The chest piece is about 18 inches long.

We also continued to test shapes for the antlers. We started testing hollowed shapes. We are still trying to perfect the gradual change in the antler size from top to bottom.

We decided that we would add a shoulder piece to our design. We thought it would be good for both the design and structure. We are thinking of having three rings go around each shoulder with cross braces between each ring. The cross braces would be as intricately designed as the chest piece. The idea is that the cross braces would get closer and closer together at the top of the shoulder pieces, and seamlessly form into the antlers.

However, we decided we needed a design change. We decided that the antlers should no longer be made with layers of circles glued together, but instead be made that same way as the chest piece, with three layers of intricately designed laser cut wood. My team agreed that these will look way better, and will be much easier to make. We started to design the new antlers in Photoshop the same way we designed the chest piece.

We also designed the shoulder pieces again. It was difficult to design the shoulder piece because each of the pieces used a different measurement. There was no consistency in the way it was designed, which is my fault for designing it that way. The problem essentially is that in order for it to look visually the way we want it, every single measurement needs to be slightly different. It was very unsettling and frustrating to model. By the end of the day we had a model that should hypothetically work, and would be ready to laser cut it on Monday.

We also started to work on the design of how each of the main pieces will fit together. Ideally the chest piece will be hanging from the shoulder pieces, and the antlers will grow out of the shoulder pieces as well. We are still trying to figure out how the antlers will fit into the shoulder pieces and have enough structural support.

We also designed the leather straps that will connect each piece from the back. It will be made out of two pieces of laser cut leather. The first piece will be a basic cut out like a belt. On top of that piece will be another layer of laser cut leather but designed like leaves and vines, to blend in with the general theme.

We ended up redesigning the shoulder piece. We spent the morning trying to get our initial design to work, but then decided that it was just too complicated. We decided that instead of having each of the rings on the shoulder be a different size, that they would instead be the same size. Having the shoulder rings the same size made designing it so much easier. All the dimensions matched and everything fit together much better. Once we redesigned the shoulder piece we cut it out and saw how it looked on the model. We decided that it was too tall, and needed to flow more with the design. We redesigned it so that it was one cross brace shorter, then started making some of the flourishing designs.

We continued working on the shoulder piece and the antlers. We still not satisfied with our shoulder piece design and are still trying different designs out. Our latest design is a shingle-like design where each support layer will fit above the next one, making the shoulder piece 3D rather than 2D.

We also made a paper cut out of the antlers to test the design. We started cutting the antlers out of wood at the last minute and also think we figured out the antler shoulder piece connection. Once the antlers are cut out, they should be able to fit right on a model.

We cut out the shingle shoulder piece design and it looked fabulous. We also made the connection between the shoulder piece and the chest piece. The shoulder piece fits right into the chest piece and it holds it in place. We cut out all the pieces for the final shoulder piece and are ready to put it together tomorrow with the cut out the cross braces for the antlers as well.

We then had to put everything together. We cut a new chest piece that has just had a few minor changes. We also cut out the final shoulder pieces and antlers. It was a big gluing day, a lot of gluing things and then holding them together for a while. We used hot glue for the shoulder pieces, and wood glue for the chest piece and antlers. The antlers took a long time to glue because the pieces didn’t always want to stay where they were, so it was a lot of holding it together. We have every piece together and are letting the glue set overnight before we stress the pieces by combining them.

Once we had all the pieces complete it was time to snap all three parts together; the chest piece, the shoulder piece, and the antlers. We accidentally designed the antlers upside down, but it was a happy accident and ended up creating a very beautiful symmetry that framed the face better. Throughout the project we couldn’t imagine all three parts together, so the final day was an awesome day. It looks stunning!